When I was growing up I spent quite a bit of time with my grandfather. He was born in 1900. He saw so many things come and go in his 95 years on earth. He saw the Great Depression, prohibition, electricity, water and a telephone come into his home. He also saw advancements in medicine, cars, and even space travel, two world wars, and many other things as well.
I used to enjoy the stories he told. Now, I have no idea if it all happened as he said, or maybe by some wild chance they were stretched just a bit. Was it like that game called telephone we have all played? You remember, the game to where each time the story is told, it changes just a little.
Baseball was very important to my Papaw Fenner. He would tell many stories about how each small town had a ball team and they would all play each other. He played shortstop and was an excellent hitter and fielder, although I can’t see any grandfather telling his grandson they were anything less than spectacular. One story was about a pitcher that played for the Chicago Cubs named Charley Root. As he pitched to the small country team no one but my grandfather was able to hit off of him. The two started a friendship and my grandfather was asked to go to Chicago and play ball with Mr. Root. But, as luck would have it, his father said no since he was needed to stay and help work the farm. Was this story a result of the telephone game? I often wondered.
Fast forward a few years to the computer age. I decided one day to check out the story. It turns out that Charley Root pitched for the Chicago Cubs, and he was a pretty big deal for many years in baseball. He was born in Middletown in 1899. Root is credited for pitching Babe Ruth his most famous home run as he calls the shot before it was pitched to him. Any baseball fan can see the image now as The Babe pointed his bat to the left field wall in the 1932 World Series moments before it actually happened. Mr. Root was that guy.
Papaw Fenner has been gone for some 30 years. I often wonder what it would be like if by some miraculous chance he came back and we could chat. He would no doubt ask me what has changed since he left. Mind you, this question would be coming from a guy that saw more change in his 90 some years than our country has ever seen. It would be my job to fill him in on what he has missed.
I picture him watching me pay for water. His speech was often very colorful to say the least. It would not be pleasant for me at all. His way would be the pump on the porch and a tin cup. Water is free. Why would you ever pay to drink it?
How would I explain how we have phones with no cord attached and we can take it anywhere we go? What do a computer and the internet do? How would I tell him that we don’t have just one TV in the house, but several. Even crazier, we now can get 100s of channels instead of just three?
I would tell him how busy we keep ourselves — how there is not time to visit with the folks next door and how we don’t go to a family member’s home for lunch after church on Sunday. I’m pretty sure I would just pass on the whole COVID-19 explanation. That one would just be too much. I may also take a pass on telling him how so many of us are just mad most of the time — how many can’t see the bigger picture of what is best for all but only see what’s best for them. That many cities have riots. They start tearing stuff up and somehow that proves their point. That many do not believe the government or even the police in many cases.
We all had those folks in our lives that have since passed away, the ones that make us smile when we look back, the ones that we were glad to have known and we respected them greatly. What would they think of the world as we know it now?
Would they be proud of us as a country? Would they be proud of our county, our town, or what kind of person we turned out to be?
Randy Butler is a lifelong resident of Highland County and a licensed real estate agent for Classic Real Estate in Hillsboro.